‘How do you like the weather in Jordan, Senator?’

July 18, 2008

barackThe big three networks — and their big three evening news anchors — are all over Barack Obama’s trip to the Middle East. Extensive coverage is planned, interviews will be touted, and ABC, NBC and CBS are sure to document his every more.

So is this attention on his trip just more evidence that the media plays favorites with Obama, as some have argued? (Who can forget the SNL skit?)

One evening news anchor, CBS’ Katie Couric,  made her feelings on the subject quite clear in a talk with TV critics. She believes there are “a number of really critical questions” Obama needs to answer about foreign policy.

“It’s not as if it’s going to be,  you know, ‘How do you like the weather in Jordan, Senator?'”

Here’s more on her take:

I think we’ve made a very conscious effort to be fair about how much attention we pay to each campaign and in the primary process as well.  I know there’s been a lot of discussion about Barack Obama’s upcoming trip and how much media attention it will receive, but I think editorially if you look at the fact that there have been questions about his foreign policy expertise and about his national security experience, prompted largely, quite 
frankly, by his Republican critics, and the fact that Iraq remains front and center in terms of how the United States may or may not extricate itself from that theater, then this is a really important trip newswise and editorially in terms of really being able to pin down Barack Obama on his foreign policy vision, if you will.

So much for the weather question.

 (Photo: Reuters)


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Frankly, Mr. & Mrs. Reader, I couldn’t care less about knowing Ms. Couric’s self-serving comments concerning Mr. Obama. I don’t know who she is trying to impress with her “insight”. Maybe she’s trying to impress herself. No, I’m not picking on her because she’s a woman. If some prominent male in the media articulated such (mostly) silliness, my comments would be the same. I can only guess at why Mr. Thomasch is highlighting Ms. Couric’s remarks in this web log piece.

The quoted remarks kind of make one wonder what Ms. Couric was doing and where she was when “…foreign policy expertise…national security experience…foreign policy vision…” NEOPHYTES Bill CLINTON and George W. BUSH were running for president against mightily experienced opponents, i.e., George H.W. Bush (1992) and Al Gore/John Kerry (2000/2004), respectively. As far as I know, Ms. Couric had the resources at NBC to use between 1991 and 2006.

All this Couric rhetoric purporting to question Mr. Obama is…well…just a bunch of patronizing pap. That is, unless Ms. Couric can explain why she didn’t “pin down” Messrs. Clinton & Bush when she had the chance.

As for the talking-head media in general, why didn’t its prominent members “pin down” Ronald Reagan on HIS lack of foreign policy expertise and lack of national security experience? It would also have been good to “pin down” Mr. Reagan on his foreign policy vision as well. Was “evil empire” about the sum of it (a reminder of Mr. Bush’s catchy but simplistic “axis of evil”)?

What I’m saying here is that none of this “expertise & experience” stuff really means much at all. There will be huge bureaucratic staffs with expertise & experience filters providing either Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain with so much advice that the new president will have to have other filters (e.g., White House chief of staff and other WH staff) filtering the already filtered stuff.

I agree that there is one thing a presidential candidate can provide from his own heart & brain that is important to me. That is the thing that helps me determine if I might vote for him. That “thing” is “vision”…and how the candidate articulates it.

Naturally, it helps immensely if the candidate is an above average orator (and can speak as if he is not using a teleprompter when in fact he actually is using one). Mr. Obama has this skill. Mr. McCain does not. Mr. Bush doesn’t either. Mr. Clinton has the Obama skill. There are few who do have said skill.

Vision is what all great leaders have (and what the not so great don’t have). Vision denotes a presidential candidate’s philosophy…and especially one that catches on with potential voters. President Jack Kennedy was very good at articulating a vision for America. His inaugural speech in 1961 was a prime example of just how good Mr. Kennedy was at doing so. Of course (like Obama, Clinton, Bush, Reagan et al), Mr. Kennedy was a novice on foreign policy and national security.

So far, I like what I hear from Mr. Obama on this score (i.e., his vision). Here are some examples: 1) Vision on getting Our Best & Finest home from an unwinnable counterinsurgency in Iraq (ALL counterinsurgencies are unwinnable, incidentally…so I’m waiting on his vision for getting OB&F home from Afghanistan as well) 2) Vision on getting America back on its feet domestically (e.g., tax cuts for the middle class and working class, i.e., tax-free consumption dollars…although he hasn’t talked much about raising taxes on the privileged class and super privileged class…which makes me wonder if he’s worried about offending wealthy campaign donors) 3) Vision on Americans getting along with one another 4) Vision on NOT shooting first and asking questions later (as Messrs. Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld/Franks/Ro ve et al did NOT agonize over…and which got America mired in the eternally bloody quicksand of SW Asia).

OK Jack

Posted by OK Jack | Report as abusive

Of course the media has been totally fair. 25 articles for Obama and 1 for McCain seems fair. All good articles for Obama and all bad articles for McCain seems fair.

Or am I just being psychoticly Leninistic?

Posted by Jim Samples | Report as abusive

Well, what a run-on sentence…Katie is sounding like a politician.
And they should keep close track of this trip, as it is the first of many which will take place after he becomes our next president. Long live Obama!

Posted by m rose | Report as abusive

In reply to OK Jack: your comments well formed and intelligently made. I think Obama saw Gore, Kerry, Edwards made the case of tax breaks for the rich which did not interest the middle class whatsoever. They made their point the second time to reelect Mr. Bush. When casualties from Iraq and more recently, the oil price gouging going on, middle class began to care. Maybe they will care now seeing how the Republican agenda backed by the religious conservatives worsening everything in sight except for those hating Democrats with fervor.

Posted by Mockingbird | Report as abusive

This is supposed to be an official congressional delegation trip and yet his congressional entourage only includes two members of congress (Chuck Hagel – R & Jack Reed – D) both of which are potential vp canidates for his ticket. With the news entourage accompliment this is purely a political trip to enhance his presidential run so why isn’t he paying the expenses instead of us tax payers? He raised $52 million in June. Also by Obama refusing the tax funds for his campaign he is putting the other candidates for president at at disatvantage as they have no where the money available to them as Obama. It takes money to run for political office. You’ll never see a farmer such as myself or a GM line worker become president. And yes I think the news media is trying to get me to vote for Obama, coverage is sorta like the old Waltons series: Good nite mom, good nite John Boy, etc.

Posted by Jackson | Report as abusive

Is a Liberal a socialist or communist?

Posted by al | Report as abusive

To Jackson,

It’s looks like you need to stay on that farm, because you seem to be closed off from the rest of the world. Why is it you and some others keep questioning how Obama is paying for the trip. First of all, like McCain, Obama is an elected official that tax payers pay for their trips period. It doesn’t matter who it is, whe cover it. So are you trying to say it was okay to cover McCain trip and past elected officials but because it’s Obama he should be left out? Why are you so concerned about something so insignificant as how his trip is being paid for when it only cost a couple of thousands vs paying for the war in Iraq which cost several billion. Not including what we pay in oil, but the benefit to that is we get oil to gas up our cars but now the cost is so high that’s not looking to good theses days. Let’s no forget that taxpayers bailed Bear Stearns and now they are trying to keep taxpayers from bailing out Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae and you are spending your concerns on a trip. I rather pay for the trip then bailouts and wars that were waged on bogus info. It’s sounds like you need to stay on that farm and another thing, who says a farmer or GM worker can’t be President. Obviously you forget this is America, you can be anything you want to be, it only takes drive to get there. It’s people like you who has furthered help the country be in the state it’s in. You spend more time questioning things that don’t matter as a trip Obama is taking when you need to question your government on what they are spending your tax dollars on.

Posted by Trasa | Report as abusive

Katie Couric, like so many other “journalists”, believes she truly speaks for the “people.” That’s a side issue to what’s pertinent here.

Obama’s trip is newsworthy and merits coverage. McCain has been receiving his fair share of coverage lately – Phil Gramm, rape jokes, etc. Karl Rove isn’t manipulating the press as he was able to before. Too bad for Republicans, but good for our nation’s future.

Posted by Peanut The Rat | Report as abusive

President Bush got elected and re-elected, if he had any foreign policy experience he surely hides it well. Bush can be a very successful drill seargent nothing more. Obama may not fit the all round American boy mould what with his background …, but Americans are increasingly looking beyond trivial issues and looking for the real beef. Obama ride to the White House will be hard but he has a good chance of making it. Once there it will be as hard to implement his vision and let us hope he will not succumb to the SYSTEM pressures.

Posted by farid bashir | Report as abusive

The truth is that the media is owned by BIG CORPORATIONS who will not be friendly towards ANY candidate unless he or she is in THEIR pocket. Hence the skewed rotten coverage and the silly people pretending to be reporters on your TV.

Don’t forget. TV is designed to make you FORGET not learn.

I will not be watching ANY coverage until next year when the inauguration comes.

I just think TV news stinks. The only thing worse is NYC in the morning on all network stations. That REALLY stinks.

Posted by Yellowbird | Report as abusive


That’s right, do the Liberal defense dance. Since you can’t defend the allegation that Obama is getting a free campaign trip, courtesy of the tax payer, try to diverrt the discussion to McCain.
“But Maaaaa, little Johnny did it, too”. Pathetic.
Whether John McCain did it or not doesn’t make it right that Obama does it.
At least MY parents raised me to know that two wrongs don’t make a right. But three lefts make circle.
It’s obvious YOUR parents were MIA (missing in action).
Grow up and be an adult for crissakes.

Posted by RoBoTech | Report as abusive

Actually, all congressional fact finding tours are paid for this way. It’s not a liberal thing, nor a conservative thing.. it’s simply the way it is done.

The problem isn’t someone trying to divert the discussion to what McCain does, while defending what Obama does… the problem is someone bitching and whining like a little child crying that somethings wrong, when in fact, it’s how the law is set up, because they have their head too far up their ass to know reality.

It’s obvious your parents didn’t teach you how not to be an idiot.

Posted by A Rogers | Report as abusive